Students anticipate Thanksgiving Day debates

This Thanksgiving, students are navigating political conversations with family members weeks after the election.


Politics haven’t always been a big talking point in Devyn Keane’s household. 

This Thanksgiving, which is only weeks after a contested presidential election, she feels the topic is inescapable.

“In 2016, when [President Donald] Trump won, the Thanksgiving table was just like, ‘Welp, there it is, that happened,’” said Keane, a junior media studies and production major. “But now there’s a lot of controversy on whether or not it was a fair election, or if there was any cheating, so now it just feels like it wasn’t finished.”

With the election over, political polarization still grips the nation, and students at Temple University are anxious about whether they’ll come home to a Thanksgiving dinner dominated by talk of voter fraud, civil rights and the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Nov. 7, former Vice President Joe Biden was elected the 46th president of the United States following a days-long ballot counting process, CNN reported

Biden beat Trump with 306-232 Electoral College votes and outpaced him in the popular vote with a 5,635,000 vote margin, the New York Times reported

Trump has not yet conceded the election and mounted lawsuits in states like Pennsylvania, The Temple News reported.

“When Joe Biden was announced the next president of the United States, my parents, they didn’t throw a fit, but they were very upset about it,” said Maya Skettini, a sophomore health professions major. “They haven’t really brought it up, so I hope it’s not going to be a huge issue, but I know they were upset about it.”

While Democrats and Republicans tend to agree on issues related to the economy, their beliefs differ on issues like climate change, racial inequality and law enforcement, according to a Nov. 6 report by the Pew Research Center. One of the largest areas of polarization relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, with 82 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of Republicans saying the virus was a very important factor in who they voted for in the election.

As cases of COVID-19 rise, Skettini feels it’ll be tough to have a conversation this year without talking about the politics of it. Because her parents are older, they have strong opinions on how the president should be handling the pandemic, she said.

“I don’t think it’ll cause that many arguments because we all have the same agreement that we should not be going out, at least in large groups,” Skettini added.

Keane voted for Biden but her parents are conservative, so she said it’s hard to avoid political conversations this year with issues like racial equality, health care and women’s rights always in the news.

“The Thanksgiving dinner table is definitely not the right place to have a political conversation,” Keane added. “Since politics is becoming a part of everyday conversations, it’s a lot harder to have good conversations about it.”

Eighty percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans fundamentally disagree with the other party about core American values, and about 90 percent of both parties said that if the other candidate won, it’d cause lasting harm to the nation, according to an October report by the Pew Research Center.

Political issues this year tend to focus on issues of moral beliefs, which makes it more difficult to compromise when talking about topics like abortion or racial equality, said Kevin Arceneaux, a political science professor.

“The fact that all these questions this year have become more and more moralized, whether you wear a mask, and certainly the election makes things worse, it’s really hard to have a polite conversation about it,” he added.

Although Skettini, who voted for Biden, disagrees with her parents about Trump, she doesn’t anticipate arguments about politics coming up during Thanksgiving dinner, she said.

“Since we’re family-oriented people, we like to spend our time with happiness and friendliness since we don’t get to see each other so often,” Skettini added. “We just prefer to keep it more on the positive side, that’s at least what’s happened so far.”

Despite sometimes arguing with her family about politics, Keane tries to balance these disagreements with her love for her parents, she said. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking more than 246,000 American lives, Keane said this Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for her health and safety, and it’s an opportunity to spend more time with her family.

“At the end of the day, you’re always still going to eat with them, you’re always going to live in the same house as them, so I think it’s important to try to meet eye-to-eye with them in some sort of way,” she added.

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